It took us 2 ½ years to buy a boat, 8 months to attain Canadian work visas, 10 days to sail up the coast from Seattle to Bella Bella and 6 minutes to fall in love with our new home.
My fiancé, John, and I live on Halcyon, our 40’ Valiant sailboat, in a quiet little cove between Shearwater Marina and the town of Bella Bella. When we are here, at home base, we do much of our work in a newly constructed floathouse on the dock, with a commute time of between 8 and 12 seconds, depending on traffic and potential road blocks. Much of the time, though, we are not at home base but out in the field, scouting new sites, working with first nation youth, or troubleshooting disobedient equipment.
If I had no calendar, you could fool me into believing we’d just arrived in Bella Bella a week ago. But then I think of all we’ve learned and accomplished and I know it’s been longer than that. We motored into Whiskey Cove in early July, enthusiastic and eager to get started. Diana arrived the very next morning to impart her knowledge about the equipment in use, the program to date, and the goals of the project. She even helped us set up trial camera sites to ensure we grasped the process and the capabilities of the equipment.
We spent the first two weeks organizing gear, familiarizing ourselves with the layout, and reinforcing the infrastructure on the top of the mountain. We asked Ian a lot of questions, and called on Diana every weekend. It didn’t take long to feel confident in the shop and ready to get into the field. In our third week, we got that opportunity.
The clouds finally rained themselves out and the sun peaked through as we packed up the speed boat with sleeping bags, provisions, tools, safety gear, fuel, and extra radio transmitters. We were heading to Gil Island, 80 nautical miles northwest of Bella Bella, to troubleshoot a camera site that was not behaving. The camera was set up to monitor Sea Lion Rock, an island aptly named for the hundreds of sea lions that lounge and laze in the sun on the rocks. PacificWILD had partnered with Hermann at Cetacealab, an organization dedicated to upholding the balance between whales and their environment through the use of hydrophones and observation, to set up this camera a few months back. The intention is to record footage of these sea lions without the disruption of human presence, then share the footage with students in Hartley Bay and Bella Bella. Hermann had been having trouble with the camera talking to the transmitters and the transmitters talking to the lab, so we went up there to try to diagnose the issue. A few hours after our arrival, we had the system up and running, with live video feed of Sea Lion Rock streaming back at the lab.
The trip, though, was dual-purpose. In addition to working out the kinks in the Sea Lion camera project, we wanted to examine Hermann’s hydrophone systems to augment our understanding as we build our own hydrophone configurations further down the coast. Hermann was so gracious in answering our questions and demonstrating how his system works. He even invited us to stay the night and assist him in the deployment of a new hydrophone the next morning!
After breakfast, we all piled into two speed boats packed full with cable, housing, electronics, and diving gear. With six of us on site we were able to install the hydrophone and ensure it was working properly, and still get back in time for lunch. What a great experience for us to get to go out with a hydrophone pro and deploy a new system!
If it is not already obvious, we are thrilled to be up here working with PacificWILD and look forward to meeting the many locals that live on the coast in order to increase understanding and raise awareness about the beautiful and magnificent life thriving in the Great Bear Rainforest